Massachusetts (23-11) at Seton Hall (21-12)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 17, 11:00 a.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Walsh Gymnasium (2,600) -- South Orange, New Jersey. Television: ESPN. NIT Record: Massachusetts 11-12, Seton Hall 8-17. Series Record: Massachusetts leads 3-2.
GAME NOTES: After just surviving in the first round, the top-seed Seton Hall Pirates will face off with the fifth-seeded Massachusetts Minutemen in the second round of the National Invitational Tournament at Walsh Gymnasium.
Seton Hall got all it could handle from Stony Brook out of the America East Conference on Tuesday but narrowly escaped with a 63-61 win to advance. The Pirates were a team that had their NCAA Tournament bubble popped on Selection Sunday after putting together a strong season with 20 wins. However, the team went just 8-10 in the Big East and had a losing streak of six straight games at one point this season.
Massachusetts also got tangled up in a tight game in the first round but outlasted fourth-seed Mississippi State 101-96 in a double overtime marathon. The win was the fourth in five games for the Minutemen who made a deep run in the Atlantic-10 Tournament but fell to eventual champion St. Bonaventure in the semifinals. UMass is also a team with 20 plus wins this year and will be looking for win No. 24 in this matchup.
This will be the fifth meeting all-time between these squads. After winning the first three, including a clash in the 1974 NIT, UMass has dropped back-to- back games to Seton Hall.
UMass led 41-31 at the half on Tuesday but watched that lead disappear in the second half and fell behind 63-62 with eight minutes left on the clock after Mississippi State ripped off a 12-0 run. The game would remain tight the rest of the way and head to the first overtime. Again the Minutemen let a lead get away with Jalen Steel hitting a three with 20 seconds remaining to knot the game 90-90 and set it to a second overtime. UMass then opened the second extra frame on a 7-2 spurt and finally was able to earn the win.
Chaz Williams continued his stellar postseason play, finishing with 28 points, eight rebounds and six assists. The sophomore guard is now averaging 20.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists during the NIT and A-10 Tournaments. Williams didn't wait until after the regular season to come up big for the Minutemen as he led the team in scoring (16.7 ppg) and assists (6.4 apg) this season. Sean Carter (8.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg) had a better game than is normally expected of him in the win as well putting in 20 points and ripping down 12 rebounds while Raphiael Putney (10.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg) paired with Carter to lead a dominating advantage on the inside by scoring 10 points and ripping down 16 rebounds. The team's third leading scorer of the season, Jesse Morgan (10.2 ppg) was ineffective last time out, scoring only eight points on 3-of-12 shooting. Javon Farrell (6.3 ppg) picked up the slack though and scored 16 points. As a team, UMass has excelled in two areas; scoring (77.5 ppg) and rebounding (39.8 rpg), ranking among the top 15 nationally in both.
Seton Hall was leading 63-61 with 19 seconds left against Stony Brook and survived when the Seawolves' three-point attempt and tip-in attempt both hit off the rim. Seton Hall shot well in the game connecting on 48.9 percent of it's field goal attempts but turned the ball over 23 times to allow Stony Brook to stay around.
Ball security is something the Pirates need to make a higher priority as the team's offensive output (68.4 ppg, 12th in the Big East) doesn't warrant Seton Hall to lose possessions. During the regular season Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope combined to create a scoring duo not many other teams could boast of. Theodore (16.1 ppg, 6.7 apg), a senior guard, and finished the year as the second best player in terms of assist in the Big East. Pope, a senior forward, has been a bruising force in the paint, scoring 15.3 points per game while pulling down 10.3 rebounds per game, one of only two players in the Big East to average double-digit rebounds. The two were in top form on Tuesday combining for 41 points. Pope pulled down nine rebounds and blocked three shots, while Theodore handed out six assists. As was the case this year the Pirates lacked much firepower behind the combination of Theodore and Pope as only one other player had more than four points, with Aaron Crosby netting 10 points.
The matchup of Williams and Theodore should be the really intriguing part of this matchup. Although Theodore has the height advantage, Williams has shown no fear in facing bigger opponents this season leading to what could be a shootout between the two guards. Carter and Putney may prove to be troublesome in the paint against Pope but the Pirates get the nod here with some home cooking.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Seton Hall 78, Massachusetts 74
03/17 10:32:59 ET
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